The surviving all-Technicolor silent features.

Throughout the 20’s, the Technicolor process was used mainly in short subjects and brief sequences in features, and during the silent era, only 4 features were made entirely with it. The second one - Wanderer Of The Wasteland- is lost. Can’t wait to get my hands on the Dawn of Technicolor book for further info. (The blog has a donate button wink wink, nudge nudge)

A post wherein film writer Kimberly Luperi explores Anna May Wong’s perseverance in the face of racial discrimination.

Anna May Wong did not have it easy in Hollywood. Despite her talent and ambition, the first international Chinese-American star faced racial roadblocks that motivated her to fight for better minority representation onscreen.

Young Wong frequented downtown Los Angeles film sets, earning the nickname “curious Chinese child.” At 17, she landed the lead in the two-color Technicolor feature THE TOLL OF THE SEA (‘22). Her casting was a triumph in itself, as actresses like Mary Pickford generally played Asian women in “yellowface.” Wong’s nuanced, mature performance stunned, but to her chagrin, film producers subsequently offered her degrading “dragon lady” parts. In her 1933 interview I Protest, she pondered: “Why is it that the screen Chinese is nearly always the villain?… We are not like that.“

Dissatisfied, Wong sailed to Europe, where audiences recognized her talents. When the esteemed star returned stateside in 1930, not much had changed, and film producers still paradoxically perceived her as either "too Chinese” or “too American.” For Wong, the final straw was "one of the most notorious cases of casting discriminations in the 1930s” – the Chinese lead role in THE GOOD EARTH ('37) going to German-born Luise Rainer.

After reading Pearl S. Buck’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel in 1931, Wong longed for the role of O-Lan and the mainstream breakthrough it would afford her. Lobbying on her behalf started in 1933, but still Wong struggled against biases within both Hollywood and the Chinese community. For associate producer Albert Lewin, Wong “did not fit his conception of what Chinese people looked like.” At the same time, the Chinese government pressed against her involvement.

Wong’s hopes of winning the role faded altogether when Paul Muni landed the male lead. At the time, the Production Code forbade actors of different races from engaging in romantic partnerships on screen. These strict miscegenation guidelines held even though Austro-Hungarian-born Muni had won a role as a  Chinese character. Whether film producers offered Wong the unfavorable supporting part of Lotus is unclear, but she wouldn’t have accepted anyway, as she told Modern Screen in 1937: ”… You’re asking me - with Chinese blood - to do the only unsympathetic role in the picture featuring an all-American cast portraying Chinese characters.“

Though disappointed, Wong put the bigotry behind her, visited China for the first time and returned determined to enhance the portrayal of Chinese characters by declaring she’d only accept positive parts. The Chinese-American community welcomed the news, as Chinese-American media often blamed Wong for accepting the stereotypical roles handed her. A journalist once wrote of Wong, "She has done more than enough to disgrace the Chinese race.” Wong just couldn’t win.

But she tried. Shot on modest budgets with little risk of financial failure, two Paramount B-pictures, DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI ('37) and KING OF CHINATOWN ('39), offered Wong “progressive and unusual roles.” In DAUGHTER OF SHANGHAI (’37), Wong plays a daughter of a man murdered by smugglers. To avenge her father, she goes undercover, helps solve the crime and exposes the racket. Wong thought of the role as the best she’d had to date. Then, in KING OF CHINATOWN (’39), Wong plays a brilliant female surgeon who later brings medical supplies to China to aid the war relief.

On the war front, Wong assisted the Sino-Japanese war effort onscreen in the early 1940s with top billed performances in Poverty Row pictures BOMBS OVER BURMA (’42), as a teacher, and THE LADY FROM CHUNGKING (’42), as a guerilla leader in command of a regiment of men. Wong donated salaries from both films to the China War Relief Fund.

Though Wong never fully overcame the racial hurdles she faced, she fought unjust discrimination with dignity, resilience and conviction.

There is no friend as loyal as a book. - Ernest Hemingway


John Grade - TOLL    2015       

TOLL- Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR.  2015   Toll was inspired by a poem called “The Want Bone”, written by Robert Pinsky in 1990. The context of the sea in the poem and connections between wear and absence relate to the specific material used to make the sculpture. The wood was salvaged from the lower hull of the historic schooner Wawona, a section of planks that was continuously under water for more than a century (see the Wawona project and Wawona Series for related projects). The wear and degradation of the wood is most evident in the small gaps and voids in the sculpture’s surfaces. Sliced cylindrical voids present in numerous areas of the sculpture were once filled with oak dowels called trunnels. The trunnels joined the Douglas fir planks to the ribs of the vessel. Color variation leached into the grain from copper cladding, wrought iron, fish oils and decay. Many areas of the wood with the deepest color have become brittle and prone to splintering so an alternating cross-grain lamination tapering in thickness throughout the sculpture was chosen for its structural quality as well as for its aesthetic.